The Starlite Wranglers, Devil's Wheel
Crazy Love Records
Band members: Tatsuya on guitar and vocals; Futoshi playing upright bass; Shinji on drums.The cover art for this, their second CD, pictures a tattoo drawing of a skull with knives driven in with a backdrop of a pool of blood. Perfectly appropriate for psychobilly, though the music's fairly tame guitar use does not seem all that "psycho" and more rockabilly; that is, country with a steady umpah-umpah rock beat.
The Starlite Wrangler's first CD pictured tattoo art from Tatsuya's close friend and tattoo shop owner, Eric Maaske, from Fullerton, California, who died in 2004. Maaske gave them the phrase: "Remember Your Roots", which graces the back cover of Devil's Wheel. Maaske was referring to psychobilly music, not about the band's own Japanese roots.
The Starlite Wranglers take the purity of their rockabilly roots seriously, writing on their website: "No matter how much the sound of our music advances, we will never forget the core of our music, rockabilly."
In 1993, the band changed its name from The Storm Riders, to embrace psychobilly, which would give them greater artistic license.
While I'm not a big fan of taking someone else's name whether from another band, book, magazine title, etc., these Starlite Wranglers are named after a band of the same name from the 1950s who were predecessors to rockabilly. The original Starlite Wranglers were known for inserting semi-suggestive material into their lyrics and two members (Scotty Moore and Bill Black) left the group and became integral in Elvis Presley's fame. There you have the indirect, albeit touching, hats off to Elvis.
If not for the names, the faces, and the production in Japan, listening I would not know they're Japanese. For the most part, the band is true to its rockabilly devotion, expanding into psychobilly for greater effect.
The music is very clean, precise, and keeps the same feel throughout the whole album. I like that. It's all basically very tame, danceable, and provides easy listening. The music moves along effortlessly, without a particularly strong personality, which would make Devil's Wheel a great soundtrack to a rockin' surf movie.
Notable tracks include: 1. Hellbent, 6. Alcohol King, and 9. Rumble.
Hellbent is standard for them with the clean, interesting and fun thread that strings their CD together. I call out Alcohol King because every CD I've reviewed to date for MI has had an alcohol-related song. Someone belches at the end of the song. Nice touch. Something I might have done myself. Rumble is the only strikingly obvious psychobilly song. It's apparent that the guitar is plugged in, turned on, and playing psychobilly. It